Tuesday, 04 December 2007

Block Printing

Although I studied printmaking at University (and wore block printed t-shirts when I was a kid), it's only recently that block printing on fabric has become something of an obsession for me. It's a time-consuming, very hand-made process, but it produces results that are quite beautiful.

It seems as if I'm not the only one rediscovering this ancient technique; I've noticed more and more block printing around the web recently.

The printing is done with carved blocks, either linoleum or wood, which are inked and then pressed onto a surface to transfer the design.

These photos are from the website of Hugh Dunford Wood, who designs and prints astonishingly lovely wallpaper:

More designs and colourways on his site.

A South African company that's doing block printed textiles is Side Attraction 3, who produce luxurious cushions, tablecloths, curtains, and more.
Items can be purchased by phone, fax, post or online. See their website for details. (Side Attraction 3's photos by photographer Alastair Mclachlan).

Slipstream, the company responsible for printing some of the Side Attraction 3 textiles, also sells limited edition block printed fabrics of their own.

The name of another South African company - Zambane - gives away their unusual printing technique. In Zulu, "amaZambane" means "potatoes", and these prints are made with potatoes as printing blocks.

Read more about Zambane here, and order these cushions through Babazeka, a great new local online shop.

Also worth a look: Galbraith & Paul, who produce fabrics for home furnishings and lights. Printing with linoleum, they create wonderfully subtle and intricate patterns. Their site has some great 'process' images too.

The basic tools and techniques of block printing are very simple, but the range of designs that can be produced is dazzling! If you're feeling inspired to try your hand at block printing, you'll find linoleum, cutting tools and fabric paint at most art shops. Potatoes are even more readily available, and can be carved with craft knives! Once you've printed, all you need to cure your fabric is a hot iron or oven.

I've written a three-part block printing tutorial over at my blog. Start with part 1 here, then look through my archives for the rest.


Bronwyn said...

Fabulous post - very interesting. I've been wondering how the block printing process works. Looks like it can be very time consuming and requires lots of patience and skill. It must be quite difficult with the more intricate designs to get the individual blocks to line up properly. I really admire the kind of time and energy that goes into handmade work like this.

Freshly Found said...

What an interesting article Jesse. I also enjoyed the links - interesting to see what is being done out there.

suzanne said...

Great post, and so many wonderful links to follow! Oh dear... I had work I was supposed to be getting done this afternoon :-)

Laura B said...

Thanks Jesse. Great post, great links, inspiring.

Sonya said...

This is such a great post, you've done it again - amazing artists. Thanks for scouting and sharing.

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